Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Creating civic & cultural change through collaboration

I was out with my geekerati brethren last night at a lecture by Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus.

His basic premise is that technology (i.e the internet) has created a global stage for group belonging and action, of which much good can come if we all watch a teeny bit less tv and do something more positive to contribute to society with that time. 

He's right to claim that in reality, nothing's changed at heart. All that technology has given us is a new tool that we can put to good (or bad) effect. My favourite quote was "behaviour is just motivation filtered through opportunity". People have always grouped together to do good, the internet has just expanded the scale and global reach of that basic human quest for improvement and evolution.

He talked about the ever growing opportunities to participate, ways to get involved be it ride share or just posting videos, photos, review or tips, and the gulf between doing something and doing nothing."Generation g" (for generosity) now has greater opportunity than ever before to colloborate and participate to create public or civic value and cultural change.

He cited LOLcats (possibly the first time that's been mentioned at the usually more intellectual stage of the RSA!) as an example of an easy entry-point to participation, it spreads smiles (which in relation to a metric of gross domestic happiness is no bad thing);  then moving on to Wikipedia, which whilst relatively few actually people curate and contribute, has enormously broad public value, and then moved on to talk about an interesting real-time, data aggregation site for people with acute or chronic medical conditions called PatientsLikeMe where real people, can share real information, of real benefit to drug companies etc for the greater good of improvements in the health and wellbeing of society, in so doing creating genuine civic value.

Yet he warned against over-ambition and scale - a bigger project carved up into smaller tasks that people feel that they can meaningfully contribute to might roll up into something bigger yet isn't so daunting to get involved with - it's that age old premise of sticky ideas, that if you can make people feel relevant and that their individual contribution can really make a difference they are less likely to shrug and leave it to someone else.

The talented chaps over at Made by Many have done this rather lovely cartoon that encapsulates the lecture (if only I could draw... damn that missing synapse in my elbow), or you can watch it here:

As always at a gathering of geeks it was fun to watch the twitter feed soundbites, complete with a prank claim that there were free iPad;s under the seats,  - view the whole thing by looking the #rsashirky on Twitter but here's a small excerpt for posterity.

Equally amusing was the friction we all felt between buying the book at the end or not. Here was a real thing (and a hardback at that) not a digital e-book. Hardback - eek, digital version - geek, but signed copy from the great man himself?  Rude not to :-)

Interesting lecture, interesting food for thought, interesting challenges to work out how and where and in what ways any of the clients / brands I work with can facilitate this sort of greater good crowdsourcing stuff.

The Pepsi Refresh project is probably the best example that springs to mind of attempts in this area, although Orange(as was) Rockcorps project was also attempting to embrace this space, as does Vodafone, with their world of difference project.  Interesting value exchanges in all of those examples.

Thinking cap on.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Unrepentently geeky but funny

I might not be spending too much time in studios full of techy coding nerds at the minute but I have done in the past, and no doubt will again in the future. So with my geek badging proudly shining I offer you an amusing film trailer style video spoof using people to engender emotion to the otherwise rather dry geeky battle between .Net and Java.  You don't even have to have the faintest clue what .Net or Java are to appreciate it as a good spoof but for those that do, this is absolute digital treasure.

Misconception: No-one tweets outside the heart of big cities?


Sure there'll always be a concentration of people at the front end of technology in places where geeks like me tend to work : every big city tends to have areas with lots of creative / strategy shops, but lots of people commute a long way to work and if they are enthusiastic about what they are doing will advocate / influence those around them when they are not in the office.

Just found this fab, fab infographic that maps Tweets like contours on a map.

Have a play (they've added some amusing tweaks of place names), or go and see a selection of other images from the creator over on Flickr... Clever stuff. 

iPhone 4 - shiny toy but....

Finally found a moment to talk about the iPhone 4 since getting my hands on a few last week.

Apple announced yesterday that they've sold 1.7m in the first 3 days which is pretty impressive, and I suspect that there will be lots of people that hmm'd a bit about buying the iPhone before that have now made the leap.  For sure it's a shiny toy, but I was mildly amused that Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple) was responding to comments about lousy reception / connectivity with comments along the lines of "you have to hold it properly"!  Apparently the built in aerial goes around the edge and if you aren't holding it quite right you get some sort of short circuit. Ooops.

Multi-tasking is an obvious and much needed improvement but there are other phones out there that have been able to do that for yonks. Now you can scroll through your apps at the bottom of the screen whilst still interacting with whatever you were doing, so no need to can listening to music so you can answer your mail, respond to a text or search for somewhere on the map.

Having a built-in webcam also makes a lot of sense, so you can use Facetime (Apple's Skype equivalent) for video calls (but only via a wifi connection, which makes sense given the bandwidth requirements to support video streaming), but for me finally having the ability to arrange your apps into folders is the stuff that really kicks the mobile bar forward. 

Think about the user experience of mobile computing:  It's predominantly touch rather than type-based. More and more services and brands are providing a connection with consumers via a mobile app, but there's apps and apps:  some apps you might use all the time, some you have 'cos they are intermittently useful. Before you know it you mobile desktop is an untidy collection of colourful icons. Sure, you can move them around so the ones you use the most are conveniently located, and it's definitely easier to use an app as a shortcut to information than faff around with fiddly mobile search queries and scrolling around a website rarely built properly for a mobile experience, but chaos sets in pretty quickly unless you are disciplined about housekeeping and tidy up or delete rarely used / rubbish apps regularly.

So thumbs up to Apple for sorting this problem out. Now I can keep adding apps to my hearts content, keep my inner Virgo happy by having a tidy desktop, and make touch-based navigation around my apps easy and logical.  Fab.

So if only Apple could sort out the chaos that was the O/S 4 upgrade to iTouch, 3G/GS phones so that it doesn't create a painful grind to a halt of the device / or make it incredibly difficult to return to the previous version, I'm sure there'd be a lot more 3GS owners feeling a bit less narked / miserable / jealous.

Not having my own iPhone 4, I owe votes of thanks to my friend Mike for letting me play and my friend Rupert of super smart mobile strategy / production agency Golden Gekko for sending me the screengrabs. Thanks chaps.

Adding legal music to your videos...

I like this.... launches today to allow you to buy tracks that you can legally use / set as background to your videos, so avoiding risking having anything you post taken down for violation of copyright.

Throwing a Googly

Ok, so the World Cup's over (for England), Wimbledon's into its second (sunny!) week, but I am sure there must be cricket on somewhere, which can be the only explanation for this extremely random thing that just tweeted past my radar.....

Type 2204355 into Google and then hit "I'm feeling lucky". Words defy me on what happens!

Meanwhile today's Google's logo today celebrates the 110th anniversary of the birth of Antoine de Saint- Exupery, author of Le Petit Prince, which in itself seems an odd thing to celebrate, fab as the book is.

Random other suggestion: Try this one  241543903 and hit image search.  There's some strange people out!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

iPhone 4 released today

Walking to work this morning I saw queues around the block outside several phone stores. 

 It's a phone people, get a grip!

It's not going to make you any more successful or guarantee you luck in love! Have breakfast!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

3m iPads in 80 days


That's one million more units in 20 days now that international sales have kicked in. There are now 11k iPad specific apps available too.I'm expecting to see updated app download figures released on or around the 1st July when the Apple iAd format goes live.

Last week Apple also saw 600k pre-orders in just 24 hours for the new iPhone 4.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The desktop goes all touchy feely

 We've got a Microsoft Surface demo unit in the office at the minute, which naturally meant I had to go and have a play.  I'd like to say that it's a big iPad, after all, I am still thinking about my iPad as a primarily coffee table device, and this is indeed a coffee table with a touch sensitive screen/top.

Now that I've been using touch as an interface for almost a year, and in particular playing with the iPad for the last six weeks or so, I've got used to the speed, grace and ease with which it reacts to my touch, swipe, pinch etc,  I have to confess that the Microsoft Surface was a real disappointment.  It felt like one of the Atari games tables you used to see in pubs in the 1980's.  Just with worse screen resolution. We've had to have the blinds down in reception so you can see it.  The touch surface isn't terribly sensitive either so I was having to repeatedly jab quite hard at icons to make things happen. The demo unit comes with an assortment of games, photo / imaging tools / apps, and being able to scrapbook and move images etc around on an even bigger scale than the iPad is certainly fun / useful, and the piano app definitely benefits from the bigger scale of unit, but I'd rather practice my scales on a piano.The sound quality is better!

All that said, it's a demo unit, so I shouldn't be too harsh, (it's just hard not to compare it to the sleek and slinky iPad), but  I think it does just underline how close we are to the extinction of the mouse and keyboard, and how touch interfaces of whatever size will force us to think  and brief differently in terms of delivering multi-sensory experiences in digital. Navigation via manipulation is going to get a few information architects scratching their heads!

I tripped over this video that kind of makes the point about the touchy feely desktop in a humorous way. Enjoy, it's Friday.

The Art of Analog Computing from meltmedia on Vimeo.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Promoted Tweets debut with Toy Story 3 / Disney Pixar

 The first "promoted tweets" went live today for Disney/Pixars forthcoming release of Toy Story 3. 

However they are only visible to people using Twitter via where they are showing up as a trending topic:

 For the vast majority of us who use another more user-friendly Twitter client e.g Tweetdeck, Seismic or HootSuite, no can see (yet, at any rate!).

Commuting could be made so much better....

If every subway station in the world adopted this.  I have visions of suited bankers at Canary Wharf...

Thanks to the Volkswagen Fun Theory Project :-)  You have just made me feel a teeny bit better about your brand after the fiasco when I tried to order a car from you last year.  Albeit I am rather bemused given that I signed up to the Fun Theory for updates, why I had to find out about this from Twitter. Ooops. Join the dots chaps.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Digital Value Exchange: Driving influential WOM using Tweets as virtual currency

I'm seeing more and more examples of deliberate and requested leverage of Twitter to drive influential reach.

Last autumn Jack Johnson offered a free music track in exchange for a tweet as a promo for his new album, Kellogg's Krave have been encouraging Teens to barter social mentions for gig tickets, and a few weeks back I caught this tweet offering a free lunch offer from London restaurant Circus :

And it worked, was genuinely free and was very nice:

I even found  myself suggesting / recommending it as a venue to someone just yesterday.  So that worked! My free taster lunch v likely dinner spend of 6 people....  just off one tweet and a follow up email. Do the maths...

Today I've spotted this free e-book in exchange for a tweet offer:  I loved the language "Pay with a tweet".
Simple. Easy to grasp, costs me little beyond a little effort, a few clicks and a few moments of time.

I'll award more points to the Jack Johnson crowd for allowing me a few characters to adapt my tweet v this one being fixed, but overall it's another nice example of how if you are providing something useful, interesting and relevant that people are prepared to make a nominal effort to get something back.

So here's the journey:

Click on tweet flagging offer, takes you to web page above.

Click on "pay with a tweet button" redirects to 
A click and a few key strokes later and I've connected to my Twitter account and get my pre-formed tweet ready to hit post. Simple.

Posted and I get an automatic download book screen.  Too Easy.

The book (I obviously downloaded it) is 172 pages long, so I've not read it and can't offer an opinion yet, but the blurb (and in my geek world, also the distribution mechanic) was convincing enough for me to spend a few moments going through the process to send the tweet to get to the download and I've already seen it re-tweeted by 2 of my followers inside 10 minutes. Which means it's probably been exposed to a good few hundred people from just a few clicks.

For the cynics amongst you who are scratching their heads and thinking "oh but what about the ROI, any idiot can give stuff away, what are they getting out of this?"....  Note that if you looked carefully at the first image you could ALSO buy the book on Amazon.  So this is a sampling exercise.  I might read this book on my iPad or Touch or Android Phone, I might even load it to all 3, I'm unlikely to print out 172 pages of A4, staple them and cart them around getting ever more dog-earred in my bag, more likely I'll skim an electronic copy, and if I think it might be worth a proper read and investment of my time I'll buy a proper book to read later, share and refer back to.

Meanwhile the authors have given me the opportunity to trial at low opportunity cost, might get a sale out of me as well,  and in the process got me to influence people I know +/or reach so for them it's a win win.

Virtual currency doesn't just have to be about Second Life's Linden Dollars or any other form of "real money" converted into "virtual money" as any 7 year old playing Club Penguin will tell you. Undertake a task, get something back that you can get value from later.

Think about what your brand could offer or can facilitate to help drive distribution of your product / message / experience.

Nice mood board / scrapbooking app for iPad

I'm enjoying this app - it has functionality built in that gets around the problem of Multi-tasking so you can easily import images from the web etc, and the touch interface again makes it easy to resize and reposition things as you go.
It's good in its own right but it's also helpful as a get-around with a little pre-work and the magic of the iPad screen capture function (hold power button & the circular nav button simultaneously) when writing presentations.

Watch this:

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Google's gone all Bing today

I just dipped into Google Italy for a quick search only to find this rather Bing-like full image approach.

Odd.  And very slightly disconcerting.

Seems to be the same on .fr, .es, and if you type the URL direct.

Wonder why they are adopting the Bing picture approach.? You can choose an image from their selection or from your PC to be your Google Homepage.  Nice touch in a world where you can customise Firefox to your taste etc etc and given that I visit Bing once a day by habit now just to see the picture cos it makes me smile, but....

UPDATE: Looks like this Bing-like approach is getting mixed reviews...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The future's at your fingertips 24/7

Here's the latest Mary Meeker digital trends report. Some of it's recycled, some of it's new, some of it puts stuff we already know into nice charts, but it's well worth a read. Totally reinforces lots of the things I've been writing about recently e.g the future in a touch interface world, connectivity very literally at your fingertips 24/7.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Instant Gratification (or Retro Real Time)

Simple pleasures are brilliant for the happiness and feel good-ness they bring.

It's a sunny day in London, and my colleague Mark just brought me an ice-lolly. A FAB lolly to be precise, something I associate more with my childhood school holidays than being behind a desk.  Friday afternoon just got a whole lot better, even though I'm looking wistfully at the sunshine through the office window.  The simple gesture reminded me to write this post about real time and little things that make you happy immediately. Sunshine, flowers, chocolate, great company, Pimms... I'll come back to that list later.

We talk a lot about real time in the digital world.

Most people still see real time as something abstract that doesn't mean much to them and haven't actively twigged that the latest evolution of Google automatically serves up news items & tweets with a much greater priority of screen real estate given to them than just 6 months ago. The launch of the Dell Streak micro-tablet / smart-phone-pad today just prompted me to pootle over to what used to be called BingTweets (now  to see what the buzz was, and there I get a mixture of Tweets, plus the most tweeted articles making it easy to see what the power of the crowd is defining as the most relevant / interesting news. Real time - what's happening now and most recently.

The easiest way I've found to explain real time search results and it's implications for websites / brands / corporations is to liken it to shops.  Take Selfridges, the department store that's a core feature of London's  West End shopping scene. It's been there since 1909.  (Here in a pic I took last year for a Children-in-Need charity challenge).
It's never moved an inch. Always sold clothes, furniture and household goods. It's a destination known for those things.  Take that as your website if you please, the thing that you should be working hard to optimise to ensure that you come up (preferably at the top) in search engine results against relevant queries (&  not just your brand keyword terms, I hope!).

Then lets add in real time: Think Selfridges shop window displays.

These change on a regular basis, highlighting new and different things in store, stimulating curiosity, entertaining you, drawing you into the store.  That's what real time is in search results - the new, the freshest,  latest,  shiny stuff.  As a brand this should be the stuff that shows you have a pulse, and are on the pulse.  Sometimes consumers will want "Selfridges" the destination, sometimes they might want to be stimulated, entertained and drawn in by the new and up to date, because we've been encouraged to believe that new = progress, the best. We live in a world of fast paced, short attention spaces, "got it, on to the next", a "good enough" quality mentality.  So you need to think about what you are doing as a brand, and what you are doing to make the most of that so that you feel up to date and relevant. Provide that instant gratification.

Which is exactly what I got last week, when, having just got back from a business trip to the UAE, I was pottering in my front garden, in the sunshine, watering my tubs, and the jingly tones of Greensleeves rang out from an ice cream van.  Every 5 year old knows that's code for "Stop me and buy one". The music (if you can call it that) got nearer and louder and the ice cream van popped into view. I waved (being the sociable type) and the driver stopped. Shock! Right outside my house. For me. Wow. I grew up in a relatively rural village and there was no way you'd ever get an ice cream van passing the house. This was real time. Just the retro kind. I'd not really thought about it as a concept that's been around for ages, it just didn't have a name then, to make people confused and scared about something they actually already understand.

The nice ice cream man made me a "99" (Mr Whippy soft ice cream with a Cadbury chocolate flake, the ultimate ice cream, for my non-English readers,) whilst I dashed inside to get the £1.50 they now cost (they used to be 99p which I guess is why they were called 99's). I sat on the front step in the sunshine, watering can at my feet, eating my ice cream, happy as a 6 year old at a fair, plane lag instantly forgotten.

Instant gratification and happiness. Ice cream delivered to me, on a nice day, on my doorstep, out of the blue as a surprise.  When was the last time your brand did something unexpected and fun to make your consumers smile? They are much more likely to talk about that than your latest feature-benefit packed TV ad.

Little things can make a big difference.   Shallow and fleeting as instant gratification might be,  the positive associations will linger, and with more of us being almost constantly connected via smartphones, tablets, netbooks, games consoles, laptops, or TV's the opportunities to deliver it, whether it's facilitating mobile  commerce for BUY IT right now moments or useful apps for HELP ME right now or content  for ENTERTAIN ME right now moments, have never been greater.

Email addresses 2.0 and beyond - Friday Fun

The Oatmeal often has some entertaining graphics and is well worth a dip into once in a while.

This one amused me particularly because I have an email address for all of the categories. I'm taking that as confirmation of my longstanding geek credentials, having started off with my AOL email address in 1996, and added others along the last 14 years.  ;-)


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Creativity, ingenuity & something very sticky

Sticky is good if you
a) have a story to tell
b) want to make great content people will want to share (needs point a) or
c) if you are Duck Tape or Velcro, which are both like good stories in themselves, one simple format, hundreds of ways to use them. Love them both for that.

I just found this short clip thanks to my friend Punesh, and it would be rude not to share. It makes some great points visually about the flexibility of the iPad / other micro-tablets (like the Dell Streak which launches in the UK on 02 tomorrow) if only the accessory packs catered for these many and varied possible uses.  Enjoy.

iPad + Velcro from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Digital smellovision... Yes really!

Ok, ok, so it was staged but nonetheless this Brazilian men's fragrance brand, rigged the PC's in a web cafe so that clicking on a digital banner  made the computer "print out" a fragrance sample there and then. Fab and fun :-)

SCENTED BANNER NATURA KAIAK from Black Mamba on Vimeo.